Prairie Seeds cancels season

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2013 - 8:14 PM

Academic concerns led to the decision, and the charter school seeks a new AD to revamp its programs.

Prairie Seeds Academy's principal canceled its varsity boys' basketball season and is looking for a new athletic director in the wake of last fall's disqualification of the charter school's soccer team from the state tournament.

"I can't go back and redo things. But going forward I have to double-check stuff," said Principal Choua Yang, who is also the acting athletic director. "I've learned that with athletics stuff, you can't make an error. You can't take chances. I've learned a lot and I've grown a lot."

Yang's restructuring has entailed removing former athletic director Youssef Darbaki, who remains as the boys' soccer coach; cancelling the varsity boys' basketball season because of academic concerns; re-evaluating all roles on the athletic staff; hiring a full-time athletic coordinator, Marcia Abbott, to help oversee paperwork and planning, and building a corrective plan of action that she said was submitted to an attorney for the Minnesota State High School League.

Darbaki, who coached the soccer team since it began varsity play in 2010, could not be reached for comment. The team won the state Class 1A title in 2010 and finished as runner-up in 2011.

The changes stem from the aftermath of a fight that broke out during a section final soccer match between Prairie Seeds and Totino-Grace last October.

Despite winning the game, Prairie Seeds lost its spot in the state tournament when the MSHSL investigated the fight and found the team had been playing with an ineligible player.

It marked the third time Prairie Seeds boys' soccer had tangled with the league over player eligibility.

The Brooklyn Park-based school was the subject of a closed-door session during the high school league's Dec. 6 board meeting. Lawyers from the MSHSL and Prairie Seeds convened after the meeting and Yang got the message the school needed to improve its standing or lose membership.

Yang said her desire to be in good standing with the league prompted her to cancel the boys' basketball season. Her new role in athletics found that the team was academically underachieving, so she pulled the plug with hopes of improving the players' efforts in the classroom.

"We're taking this route and doing this process because we want the kids to be able to compete in the future," Yang said. "The most legitimate thing for me to do is to show how we can improve as a program."

Dave Stead, the executive director of the MSHSL, said he was encouraged to learn Prairie Seeds is taking action to right its wrongs. Stead, who was part of a closed-door meeting, said some action has been taken since the meeting.

"Some things need to be addressed and they need to do that," Stead said. "I'm happy they are taking a good strong look at their program."

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